Brazil Has a New President -- And he's Lebanese!
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
Today, a Lebanese-Brazilian lawyer, Michel Temer, assumes presidential responsibilities of Brazil, after being the Vice President. This happened immediately after President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was suspended for six months due to her upcoming impeachment trial.
Temer was born in Tiete, Sao Paulo state to Lebanese Maronite immigrants who moved to Brazil to escape World War I and famine in Lebanon. His family comes from Btaaboura in Koura District in Northern Lebanon. He has visited Lebanon a few times and understands Arabic, although he is not fluent in the language.
According to personal accounts by his relatives, Temer is very proud of his Lebanese heritage and is close with his family memebers who are still living in Btaaboura. The people of Btaaboura are proud to call Temer one of their own, and ironically point out that he is now presiding over more Lebanese people in Brazil than there are in Lebanon itself. The huge Lebanese Diaspora in Brazil consists of 7-9 million people, nearly double the amount of people living in Lebanon today.
Temer is the second Lebanese vice president Brazil has had, but he is the first one to assume presidential duties. He obtained a law degree and doctorate in Sao Paulo before becoming State Prosecutor and an expert in constitutional law. Afterwards, he served as State Secretary for Public Security twice, as well as six terms in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. His career in politics began when he became chairman of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, which is considered moderate and the largest poltiical party in Brazil today.
Despite his hard work to rise to politics, Temer faces corruption allegations, much like a significant portion of elected officials in Brazil. Currently, he is under investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil for “Operation Car Wash”. Temer is accused of bribery and suspected of providing kickbacks in this money laundering case, involving the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, which allegedly awarded contracts to construction firms at inflated prices.
This investigation, as well as Temer’s right-of-center political views, has caused some Brazilians to protest his new role and call for him to step down. Rousseff has accused Temer of betraying her, and said he was a chief plotter in a backdoor power grab to get her position. Rousseff worries that during his presidency, Temer will slash many of the social programs that raised nearly 40 million Brazilians out of poverty. However, Temer denies these accusations and believes he was excluded from much of the executive decision-making during Rousseff’s presidency. He says he looks forward to improving Brazil’s conditions and the president’s favorability in the upcoming months.
Michel Temer is 75 years old and has five children; three with his first wife Maria, one with a former girlfriend, and one with his current wife, 32-year-old former beauty queen, Marcela Tedeschi. Although he is not being tried for the same fiscal errors Dilma Rousseff made, Brazilian political pundits are saying that he should be. By law, Temer is unable to face impeachment for the same charges as Rousseff. Temer is being criticized, though, for prepping a cabinet that is all male, and mostly white.
For now, the Arab World has one more political leader to claim. Temer’s personal life and career may be marred by unethical decisions, but he has at least six months to atone for some of these accusations, and prove to the Brazilian people that he is working with them, as well as for them.